USWA and PACE forge ‘strategic alliance”

Formalizing cooperative activities already underway, the executive boards of United Steelworkers of America and Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy International Union (PACE) agreed to combine forces to conduct joint activities. In a joint statement, the two unions said they would build on their “strong rank-and-file programs to raise a collective voice on issues facing the labor movement – especially industrial unions.”

PACE has already enacted the Steelworkers’ Rapid Response political and education action program. Both unions intend to combine forces on key legislative races in the fall as well as the 2004 presidential election. A coordinating committee consisting of officers and key staff appointed by the presidents of both unions will meet regularly to monitor and facilitate implementation of the alliance. Both presidents agreed that the alliance provides a “real-world forum” evaluating how their unions can join forces.

PACE has over 275,000 members in the U.S. and Canada. It represents workers in the paper, oil, chemical, automobile supply, and atomic energy sectors. The USWA has over 600,000 members in the U.S. and Canada and represents workers in steel, rubber and tire, aluminum, mining and health care.

Monument to honor Black labor history”

The building of a monument honoring the contributions of African Americans to the U.S. labor movement has gained the support of the AFL-CIO and the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, APRI announced March 20. The multi-media sculpture will be cast in bronze and will feature key historical figures and events in African American labor history. It will be erected on the grounds of the A. Phillip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, located in the historic Pullman neighborhood in Chicago.

Mushroom workers win 17-year struggle”

When mushroom workers in Ventura, Calif., won a union contract last month, they became the first farm workers in the state to benefit from the landmark 2002 state law providing for binding mediation when growers drag out negotiations. On Feb. 13, the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board adopted a report from a state mediator deciding the terms of a union contract for employees of Pictsweet, who have labored without a contract since 1987. The new contract provides complete family health care benefits paid for by the company, according the United Farm Workers Union.

Killer fumes from microwave popcorn”

The chemicals in butter flavoring permanently ruined the lungs of workers in popcorn factories in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, according to a report by Associated Press.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has linked exposure to vapors from the chemical diacetyl in butter flavoring to damaged airways and breathing problems. Thirty former workers at the Glister-Mary Lee plant in Jasper, Mo., have entered suits against the butter flavoring manufacturer. They charge the manufacturer was aware of the dangers but failed to warn them or provide adequate safety instructions. On March 15, jurors in Joplin, Mo., ordered International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc., to pay $18 million to Eric Peoples, whose case was the first to come to trial. Peoples was reported to be a candidate for a double transplant.

The Environmental Protection Agency is studying the chemicals released when microwave popcorn is prepared by consumers, according to the AP report.

Scaffolding failures add to death toll”

Was the cause of death a joist that failed, or was it enforcement of work place safety regulations that failed when Luis Mendez and William Kelly fell 40 feet to their death at a Hartford, Conn., construction site? Naek Construction Company, the general contractor, which was responsible for the scaffolding, has been cited for eight scaffolding violations since 1994, according to a report from the Hartford Courant. Last June, Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors found two scaffolding violations on a Naek site, one of which was categorized as repeat violation, but Naek’s $5,600 fine was negotiated down to $3,200. That was OSHA’s last visit to a Naek job site before the January tragedy.

Labor Update is compiled by Roberta Wood,